Namibia seeks to use its own reserves

16 January 2007

Namibia holds about 7% of the world's uranium reserves, which are mined to fuel nuclear power stations around the world. Now the country is taking steps to use the nuclear fuel for its own development.

Mines and Energy permanent secretary Josef Iita said earlier this month that "Using uranium for electricity generation is a policy position of the Namibian government. We have committed ourselves to generate electricity - including nuclear energy."

The country faces severe challenges in power supply, relying on key projects such as a coal plant planned for the port town at Walvis Bay and a 970 km interconnector which will allow electricity imports fom Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, Iita said nuclear power is "a long-term plan but first we have to train people, set up the infrastructure and we can only achieve this by coordinating with countries with advanced technology," mentioning China, France and the USA before adding that the country plans to build one small plant first.

The leading regional nuclear country is South Africa, which operates two pressurised water reactors at Koeberg near Cape Town. The two units output 965 MWe each and represent a steady source of local generation since much of South Africa's power generation comes from coal-fired plants fuelled by mines in the north of the country. To alleviate its power shortage, South Africa is developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) which is safer, smaller in size and simpler to operate than conventional reactors. South Africa hopes to build dozens of the 165 MWe PBMR units at home and abroad in coming decades.

Iita confirmed that his ministry was cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and sending engineers to attend IAEA courses.

Meanwhile, in a matter of months the Namibian government has awarded 15 uranium exploration licences and the total number of companies searching for the nuclear fuel has reached 20.

One company, West Australian Metals (WME) has announced the discovery of "widespread near-surface mineralisation" at the Marenica Project in the Erongo region. WME has invested $1.9 million in exploration in Namibia.

In addition to the Roessing mine, which has operated since 1976, the Langer Heinrich operation opened in late 2006 - the first new uranium mine and milling operation to open for 25 years.

Further information

Pebble Bed Modular Reactor

International Atomic Energy Agency
Ministry of Mines and Energy